The Contributions of High Resolution Multispectral Imagery to Precision Agriculture: A Case Study of Soil Moisture Estimations

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Spring Runoff Conference


Logan, UT

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Airborne and Landsat remote sensing are promising technologies for measuring the response of agricultural crops to variations in several agricultural inputs and environmental conditions. Of particular significance to precision agriculture is surface soil moisture, a key component of the soil water balance, which addresses water and energy exchanges at the surface/atmosphere interface and affects vegetation health. Its estimation using the spectral reflectance of agricultural fields could be of value to agricultural management decisions. While top soil moisture can be estimated using radiometric information from aircraft or satellites and data mining techniques, comparison of results from two different aerial platforms might be complicated because of the differences in spatial scales (high resolution of approximately 0.15m versus coarser resolutions of 30m). This paper presents a combined modeling and scale-based approach to evaluate the impact of spatial scaling in the estimation of surface soil moisture content derived from remote sensing data. Data from Landsat 7 ETM+, Landsat 8 OLI and AggieAirTM aerial imagery are utilized. AggieAirTM is an airborne remote sensing platform developed by Utah State University that includes an autonomous Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) which captures radiometric information at visual, near-infrared, and thermal wavebands at spatial resolutions of 0.15 m or smaller for the optical cameras and about 0.6 m or smaller for the thermal infrared camera. Top soil moisture maps for AggieAir and Landsat are developed and statistically compared at different scales to determine the impact in terms of quantitative predictive capability and feasibility of applicability of results in improving in field management.

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